Friday, March 11, 2011

Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden - A Total Delight!

Whimsical, wild, refreshing, creative, innovative, un-expected. All words I would use to describe Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden in Lexington, Va. I was expecting manicured grounds surrounding an old private residence, but what I found was much more interesting. A rambling yet intimate, delightfully un-manicured garden filled with giant-sized furniture, interesting garden art, and other gnarly, wooden garden creations. A garden truly seeming to have been created in the spirit of 'going with the flow' of nature rather than trying to control and manage it. When roaming through this interesting space, with the help of colorful, handmade signage, it felt like I was getting a VIP tour by the garden's creator, showing me all the little particular beauties and secret sweet spots of this little parcel of land. I felt like a kid again. I wanted to build a fort, make some mud pies in an earthen kitchen, and explore all the many secret hideaways behind trees and under bushes. And, this is how I felt traveling through the "adult" section of the garden! The children's garden, The Play Trail, was off -the -chain! Forts galore, a tunnel, a true mud kitchen complete with pots and pans for creating muddy delicacies; it looked so FUN! I think Boxerwood really hit the nail on the head with this children's garden. Kids can really be kids there(...and so can adults;). Check out this video to see some of the Play Trail's visitors in action:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plant Sex

I began my Dendrology laboratory this past Wednesday and we touched on the concept of monoecious and dioecious. Generally speaking, monoecious plants have unisexual flowers( seperate male and female flowers) that occur on the same plant. Dioecious plants also have unisexual flowers but they occur on separate plants, as in male flowers on one plant and female on another. However, Despite all the different times I have heard this, I still get a little confused. Michael G. Simpson does a nice job of explaining this concept and the different variations that occur on this monoecious-dioecious spectrum in his textbook, Plant Taxonomy:

Click twice on the image to view:)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tropical Escape

Brassavola Little Stars

Despite the fact that there is a bit of snow on the ground here in Blacksburg, Va., we still have a few things blooming around here. There is a Brassavola Little Stars blooming just inside the front doors of the garden pavilion. Come visit it late in the day and you will be able to smell its sweet fragrance. Also, blooming right next to it is Begonia dregei (syn. B. richardsiana). Unlike any Begonia I have seen before, it is mini-sized and develops a swollen, bulbous, stem base (caudex) as it matures. Because of its habit and toleration of dry conditions, it apparently lends itself to Bonsai. If you check out the Logee's website, there is a picture of it grown in this way. Very Cool!

P.S. I am a little bit confused on the nomenclature of this plant. I have seen it listed a bunch of different ways, B. 'Richardsiana', et. al., but went with B. dregei because the USDA GRIN ( website lists it as such, with B. richardsiana as a synonym. If you know otherwise, please let me know!

Begonia dregei

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Permeable Pavers

Howdy folks! If you've visited the garden lately or read the summer edition of The Garden Leaflet, you know that, with the help of a lot of talented folks, the garden now features a fabulous new hardscape constructed out of permeable pavers, more specificallyTecho-Bloc's "Permea" permeable concrete paving system. For many reasons, we are so excited about this new space. For one, it creates a larger, more welcoming entrance to the garden that more in scale with the rest of the garden. The old one was too tiny...the garden outgrew it. This larger space is also more handicap-friendly and connects the parking lot with the path system throughout the rest of the garden. Additionally, the permeable pavers are ADA compliant. Finally, because we intend to use some of the patio space for containers, the permeable pavers will allow for container run-off(water and minimal fertilizer) to percolate back through the patio and into the earth. Though our patio is a relatively small application of this type of paving material, it is suitable for large-scale projects like parking lots, driveways, boat ramps, and areas that get light residential traffic. Another added benefit, permeable concrete pavers are eligible for LEED(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits through both the U.S. and Canadian Green Building Councils' specifications.

So, you may be asking yourself, what makes a paver permeable? Well, it's all about the joints and the base, baby. First of all, the pavers have lugs on all sides that interlock with the lugs of neighboring pavers, creating approximately a 7/8" space inbetween all the pavers. This joint is then filled in with a small gravel, #8 aggregate to be specific. This gravel-filled joint space is part of the reason why water permeates so easily through this surface. The second reason why this system is so permeable is because of the base construction. It is excavated by at least 12". That is what we did. For larger scale projects, a deeper base might be spec'd. Then we covered the bottom of the hole with a geo-textile fabric. This keeps the soil and patio fill from settling and seeping into one another. Next, approximately 7" of 57 stone, a coarse gravel, was added on top of the geo-textile (compacted in a series of level lifts). Then, another layer of geo-textile was added. Then came 2" of the #8's to serve as a setting bed for the pavers. The pavers were set in and their joints filled with the #8's. Finally, the whole patio was compacted with a vibratory plate compactor. Voila! There you have it, a permeable patio.

So, that's the quick and dirty of it all. Techo-Bloc provided us with some nice technical materials that I referenced in writing this little tid-bit. See picture below, from said materials, which gives a nice cross-section of a standard permeable patio. Also, check out the link below for some pictures of the kiosk patio being built.

One more thing...if you would like to check out the materials we used for yourself, you can go by Chandler Concrete of Virginia, Inc., located in Christiansburg. They carry the Techo-Bloc pavers as well as the Grotto Hardscapes weathered parapet blocks used for the wall.

Copy and paste into brower, then click 'Play Slideshow'

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January Beauties

It has been bloody cold this January in Blacksburg, Virginia. However, even with the unforgiving weather, there are still some plants that look wonderful this time of year. So, there is no excuse for not visiting Hahn Horticulture Garden when it is cold, or any public garden for that matter, because you will always see something shining:)

Probably my favorite plant doin' its thang
right now is Mahonia aquifolium, Oregon grape-holly. Its lustrous leaves turn a beautiful burgundy about this time of year and it is stunning! A very underrated plant in my opinion.

Most evergreens look nice this time of year anyways but Platycladus (Thuja) orientalis 'Aurea Nana' is looking especially nice, taking on a beautiful burnt orange color. A nice winter surprise!

The always lovely Nandina domestica is in its full-berry glory right now. Even with all the new, fun stuff on the market, don't forget about the classics!

And, keep your eyes out for grasses this time of year. Many retain their vertical form throughout the winter and take on lovely, wheat-y colors. Check out the photos of Panicum virgatum 'Nortwind' and Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' below.

And one more thing, don't forget to appreciate the structure and bark of many wonderful deciduous plants. And, as our woody plants curator, Dr. Alex Niemiera, would suggest, don't be afraid to stroke the bark of any sexy tree you see!

Enjoy the winter people. There is beauty in every season.